GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Ferris State University football defensive coordinator Lou Esposito was tabbed Thursday (May 22) as Davenport University's first-ever head coach on a historic day in a morning press conference on DU's Lettinga Campus in Caledonia Township by the Panthers' Director of Athletics and former FSU hockey standout Paul Lowden.
Esposito, who guided the Bulldogs' defense in 2013, will become the Panthers' inaugural head coach as plans continue for the NAIA-based school to field its first varsity football team in 2016.
"I am incredibly honored and blessed for the opportunity that Davenport University has given me," said Esposito. "There are not a lot of coaches that have the opportunity to start from the bottom up and I am confident that with the great administrative support and staff and coaches that are already here, we will be successful. The vision that President Pappas, Mike Volk and Paul Lowden have shared, it's the same that I have."
Esposito comes to Davenport directly from Ferris State where he served as the defensive coordinator under head coach Tony Annese and helped field a defense that finished in the Top-5 in many GLIAC statistical categories under his guidance in 2013. Ferris State led the GLIAC in total defense (356.5 ypg.) along with rushing defense (136.1 ypg.) and team passing efficiency defense (115.30)
In 2013, as defensive coordinator at Ferris State, Lou coached a defensive unit that included new starters at virtually every position at the start of the campaign. Six defensive players claimed All-GLIAC accolades in 2013. Justin Zimmer (DE) and Marvin Robinson (S) were first-team all-conference honorees while Corey Stone (DT) and Terrell Porter (LB) were second-team picks. Cornerback A.J. McEwen and LB Darnell Morris were honorable mention choices.
Robinson has since joined the NFL's Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent after starting in the Bulldogs' secondary last fall.
While with the Bulldogs, Ferris State wrapped up a successful 2013 campaign and the second season under Annese's direction last fall with a 8-3 overall record along with a second-place 8-2 finish in the GLIAC North Division standings. FSU narrowly missed receiving the school's first playoff bid in 17 years.
The Bulldogs' eight-win campaign last fall with Esposito on staff was the school's first since 2006 and only the second in the program's last 16 seasons. Additionally, Ferris State's eight league wins in 2013 were also its most since 1996 and the Bulldogs beat rival Grand Valley State for the second consecutive year to hold onto possession of the Anchor-Bone Trophy while notching their first road win at Michigan Tech in 15 years.
"New programs always bring a sense of excitement," said Paul Lowden, Director of Athletics. "Starting a football program has created an even more positive atmosphere on campus and in the community. We had an outstanding talent pool, which made it a very tough decision. Lou is very passionate with a lot of energy and he will be a great teacher, leader and role model for our football student athletes."
Prior to FSU, Esposito served as the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator at NCAA Division I Western Michigan from 2010-12 under former WMU head coach Bill Cubit.
At WMU, Esposito coached two All-Mid-American Conference MAC) honorees on the defensive line in Drew Nowak and Freddie Bishop as Nowak went on to be named the conference's Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 while garnering Phil Steele All-America honors.
A past Division I offensive lineman at the University of Memphis, Esposito spent five years as the head coach at Division II Saint Joseph's (Ind.) before moving to Western Michigan. At St. Joseph's, Esposito was the Great Lakes Football Conference Coach of the Year in 2006 and 2009 and posted a 30-25 record while recording a 100% graduation rate for four year athletes in his six years guiding the program. He led the team to a pair of GLFC championships in 2006 and 2009. He coached 23 All-GLFC student-athletes in 2009 alone, ranking first in both rushing offense and defense. The Pumas also had the top-ranked red zone offense in the GLFC, boasting the 2009 GLFC Offensive Player of the Year and an unblemished record in conference play.
Esposito has laid out a clear plan over the next two years before the program will even play a game and put it into two parts.
"Our first goal will be to assemble a staff that is of high character and are great teachers of the game," he said. "They are people that I would want to have my own son play for one day. The second part is to recruit great individuals and great athletes. I want to bring in the captains of their teams and ones that also bring that level of character that will be represented in our program and at our University."
During his playing days at Memphis, Esposito was a 4-year letterwinner on the offensive line and served as the team captain in 1999 and 2000. Upon graduation, Lou signed a professional contract with the Arena Football League's Memphis Explorers and went on to coach on the Xplorers' staff in 2002 and 2003.
Many levels of experience have helped pave the way for Esposito to take over his own program and noted that "all three stops at St. Joseph's, Western Michigan and Ferris State have helped me where I am today. At each spot, I learned valuable lessons from some great people that I was around. At St. Joe, I learned on the fly as a young head coach; at WMU, the knowledge gained from Bill Cubit and his staff was tremendous and then at FSU under Tony Annese, how to put people in the best positions where they could succeed. I am very thankful for my time at each University."
Esposito, 35, an AFCA member since 2003, and his wife Brooke have a son, Louis Joseph Esposito IV, along with a daughter, Emilia Rose Esposito.